2014 New York Mets Spring Training Stock Watch: Who Is Rising, Falling
The New York Mets open the 2014 regular season on March 31 against the Washington Nationals. With spring training in full swing, the coaching staff is currently evaluating who can help them reach their goal of making the playoffs and who can’t.
New York is 6-7 through 13 Grapefruit League games. Last week, I talked about which players were turning heads early on in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
After the first round of cuts were made earlier this week, it will start becoming more clear who manager Terry Collins will bring north and who starts the year in the minor leagues.
To post a winning record in 2014, all 25 players on the active roster must contribute. With injuries that are bound to happen, there is someone with hidden production waiting to surprise everyone.
Nearly two weeks before their season opener at Citi Field, here are the players who are continuing to rise in the eyes of the coaching staff, as well as players who are falling quickly.
All player statistics sourced from Mets.com, unless otherwise noted.
Rising: Omar Quintanilla
Omar Quintanilla’s stock isn’t rising necessarily because of an outstanding performance. The lack of shortstop depth still has him in the conversation of possibly breaking camp in the big leagues.
Quintanilla did go 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 11, but those were his first three hits of the spring. He’s currently hitting .235/.278/.294 in 17 at-bats.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York has released five different roster projections during spring training, and his latest one mentions Quintanilla for the first time. As long as Ruben Tejada is the starting shortstop, the backup middle infielder job will be up for grabs.
Quintanilla’s big league experience and solid defense give him an upper hand over others. In 95 games for the Mets last season, he hit just .222/.306/.283, so he won’t be much of an asset at the plate. Then again, there currently isn’t much offensive clout in Tejada, either.
He would be valuable to Collins as a late-game defensive replacement at either shortstop or second base. In his time with New York, “Q” has been able to work a count and come through in big situations at times.
If Quintanilla does make the Opening Day roster, it will be solely for his defensive reputation.
Falling: Ruben Tejada
No matter what Tejada does, it doesn’t seem like he can catch a break. Despite participating in a fitness and nutrition camp most of the winter, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post reported an anonymous Mets official wasn’t thrilled with how his body looked.
His .067/.125/.133 line in 15 at-bats and three errors in six Grapefruit League games aren't helping, either.
Kernan reports Tejada is doing the best he can to focus on what he can control:
I don’t make the decisions. I’m just trying to prepare myself as best I can. You never know what happens here. My concentration and preparation is on the game. I want to show everybody I can play good baseball.
According to Rubin, general manager Sandy Alderson is still keeping his eyes open for other solutions:
We continue to look at how he’s doing, but it won’t be a judgment based on one game or two games or three games. We’ve got a lot of spring training left. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at our other options.
One of those options includes Wilmer Flores. He recently played his first game at shortstop since 2011 and told ESPN New York he “definitely can” play the position.
Stephen Drew is still available on the free-agent market. The Mets have also been connected to the Seattle Mariners and Nick Franklin, as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings.
Unless Tejada drastically improves his performance, Alderson will continue searching for an alternative.
Rising: John Lannan
Technically, John Lannan is still competing with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, but he may be shifting to the bullpen.
The first cuts of spring training were made Monday, and Michael J. Fensom of The Star-Ledger noted that Josh Edgin and Jack Leathersich were optioned to the minors. Both left-handed relievers had a chance of making the team out of camp.
Edgin was the bigger surprise to be cut, as Scott Rice is now the only true left-handed reliever currently on the big league roster.
Lannan has had a solid spring, posting a 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and nine strikeouts in eight innings of work. His potential versatility has his stock on the rise. The southpaw prefers to start, but told ESPN New York he’d be open to relieving if it can get him on the Opening Day roster.
If he does head to the bullpen, it will be something Lannan has rarely done in his professional career. Over seven years in the majors, all 148 of his appearances have been as a starter. In parts of six seasons in the minors, he appeared in 95 games, 88 of which were starts.
Trusting him to be a reliever is a gamble, but it’s pretty clear the Mets intend on bringing the 12 most effective pitchers to Citi Field. Hopefully, Lannan’s big league experience will help him become a solid reliever.
Falling: Kyle Farnsworth
Kyle Farnsworth was the first veteran reliever Alderson signed this winter. Agreeing to a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp, it looked like he’d be filling the role LaTroy Hawkins occupied last season.
That was until New York also brought in Jose Valverde on a minor league deal to compete with him.
Rubin’s first roster projection of the spring had both Valverde and Farnsworth in the Opening Day bullpen. That hasn’t been the case since, with Farnsworth on the outside looking in.
He hasn't produced thus far in five innings pitched, posting a 5.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and just one strikeout. Farnsworth has also allowed two home runs, while opponents are hitting .316 off him in Grapefruit League action.
If he’s going to be the veteran in the bullpen and insurance at closer in case something happens to Bobby Parnell, he’ll have to be much more effective and dependable.
When spring training started, I stated I would be shocked if both Farnsworth and Valverde made the big league team, even if they performed well.
Each reliever has a late-March opt-out clause in their contract, allowing them to explore other opportunities if they don’t make the Opening Day roster.
At this point, Farnsworth should start dusting off his resume.
Rising: Eric Campbell
If it wasn’t for Josh Satin, Eric Campbell would have a much better chance at breaking camp in the majors. If he keeps hitting the way he currently is, conversations could start to increase that possibility.
Through 21 at-bats, he’s hitting .381/.435/.476 with two doubles and two RBI.
While he’s played first base this spring, Baseball Reference notes he split time evenly last season in Triple-A between first base, third base, left field and right field.
That’s the kind of versatility Collins could use on his bench.
The .314/.435/.475 line he posted with the Las Vegas 51s in 2013 is likely inflated due to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. However, he owns a .279/.376/.409 line across six seasons in the minor leagues.
What sticks out is his .376 on-base percentage. He has an affinity for getting on base at a high rate, which is sure to get the attention of Alderson and the rest of the front office.
With the current first base competition stalled between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, Campbell could emerge as a potential bench player. It’s not likely to happen, but if he keeps performing well, it might.
Falling: Ike Davis
Anthony Rieber of Newsday captured what Collins’ strategy was for Davis this spring:
One of the things we're going to do obviously in spring training is we're going to give him some more at-bats. I think it's very, very important to try to get him in midseason form when the season starts. A lot of guys leave spring training and have 50, 60 at-bats. I might get him 80 to 100 this spring just to make sure he's ready to go when we start.
Thirteen games into spring training, a calf injury has limited Davis to six at-bats. He launched a two-run homer in his spring debut, but that’s the only hit he’s collected while striking out three times.
Collins told Mike Vorkunov of The Star-Ledger that Davis’ swing looks a lot better compared to 2013. It’s hard to show his progress when he’s unable to play, though.
Davis’ next step will be to try running, which he hasn’t done since injuring his calf, according to ESPN New York. Once he proves he can do that, he’ll be cleared to be a designated hitter, which will hopefully be by the weekend.
Opening Day is fast approaching, so Davis must return as soon as possible. He may be the default choice for the starting first base job, but he still has plenty to prove. Being sidelined isn’t helping his case, and he’s not getting all of those at-bats Collins was hoping to give him.
Rising: Matt Den Dekker
Similar to Campbell, Matt den Dekker isn’t expected to break camp in the big leagues, especially with New York’s surplus of outfielders.
Rubin’s latest roster projection has Duda on the bench as a reserve first baseman and outfielder, but if den Dekker keeps hitting, he should take his spot.
He comes with a great defensive reputation, but his bat is also starting to do some talking. Den Dekker is hitting .421/.500/.579 with one double, one triple and five RBI in 19 at-bats.
Spring training statistics aren’t the most reliable, but it’s a huge improvement from the .205/.222/.364 line he posted last spring in 44 at-bats. If it wasn’t for a broken wrist at the end of camp, he might have made the team.
To be a team’s fifth outfielder, defense is very important. A manager needs to have options in late-game situations to make a double switch and have a viable defensive replacement available.
Den Dekker can not only provide that for Collins, but he brings some speed and the ability to be a good hitter when he's not overexposed.
Duda has power potential, but he’s a one-dimensional player. Bench players, especially extra outfielders, need to be versatile. Collins should feel comfortable using his spare outfielders as defensive replacements, pinch hitters and pinch runners. The only thing he'd feel comfortable doing with Duda is letting him pinch hit.
If den Dekker continues to hit, there is a case to include him on the Opening Day roster.
Falling: Anthony Seratelli
The Mets signed Anthony Seratelli to a minor league deal at the beginning of November with an invite to big league spring training.
He hasn’t made his major league debut yet, but the 31-year-old’s versatility on the field makes him an attractive commodity. Through 120 games in Triple-A last season, Seratelli hit .273/.395/.413 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI while playing five different positions.
In looking at his eight-year career in the minor leagues on Baseball Reference, the only positions Seratelli hasn’t played are center field, pitcher and catcher.
After non-tendering Justin Turner, there was hope the New Jersey native would fill the open utility role.
Things haven’t gone very smooth for him since arriving at Port St. Lucie. He’s hitting just .200/.231/.240 in 25 at-bats. Rubin included him on most of his roster projections but not the most recent one.
Scouts are saying he’s having trouble catching up to fastballs and not showing enough quickness when turning double plays. New York is giving him every opportunity to prove himself, but it doesn’t seem to be working.
It feels like spring training is winding down, but there are still more than two weeks to go before the regular season starts. That leaves players a lot of time to turn their fate around, continue rising or start a downward trend.
Time will tell what decisions actually get made and who will head to Citi Field with the Mets. There is pressure to bring the right mix of players into the regular season so the organization can post their first winning record since 2008 and attempt to make a run at the playoffs.
They must choose wisely.
Matt's baseball opinions have been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, Yahoo! Sports, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue and Mets Merized Online. To keep up with Matt, you can follow him on Twitter.
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